The Scottish government have a very good record when it comes to cutting carbon emissions. A few months ago it was announced that Scotland had exceeded its own target for cuts to emissions six years early. Because it met this target early, Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham had to come up with a new goal. Yesterday Cunningham set out the government’s plan for the next 15 years. The target is a 66% reduction in carbon emissions by 2032. This is ambitious, but as some have already pointed out, there are some problems with the plan.
In the 172-page document, the Scottish government outlined its intention to: fully decarbonise its electrical grid; generate 80% of domestic heat from low-carbon technologies; increase the proportion of low-emission vehicles to 40%; restore 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland; and create 15,000 hectares of additional woodland per year. The government hopes that this plan will reduce carbon emissions by the 66% figure mentioned above.
For environmentalists like myself this all seems encouraging, as it appears like the Scottish government have looked at carbon emissions from many different angles. For example many people focus on transport and clean energy when trying to reduce carbon emissions, but often neglect natural stores like peatlands. However, despite being 172 pages long, there is a surprising lack of detail when it comes to the policy substance. There is a lot of padding- in that the document makes lots of statements about what the impact of green technology will be- but there’s not a great deal on what specific things the Scottish government will do.
Take the following example. On page 38, the plan says that the government’s goal to to decarbonise the Scottish power grid. Policy outcome number 2 from this goal is: “By 2030, emissions from electricity generation are negative, providing a net reduction in energy system emissions”. In more plain English, it means that the Scottish government wants a reduction in emissions by 2030. There is nothing wrong with this goal, my problem is with the ‘policy’ recommended: “Encouraging the demonstration and commercialisation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Scotland”. That isn’t a policy recommendation, it’s a statement of intent. A policy recommendation would say how the Scottish government was intending to encourage the demonstration and commercialisation of this technology. Saying general statements isn’t good enough.
Further, the plan doesn’t say if the Scottish government will encourage fracking as an alternative to coal-fired power stations. Fracking, as any environmentalist will tell you, is not clean energy and produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. The Scottish Parliament has previously voted to ban fracking, but the SNP has been at the forefront of pushing the technology. The Scottish Green Party has said that they will push Cunningham for an answer as to whether the Scottish government will seek to continue pushing fracking. Any government that claims to want to protect the environment that has sympathy for fracking needs to be under close scrutiny from the electorate.
The overall plan from the Scottish government is encouraging, and if the country does manage to reduce emissions by 66% this will be a good step forward. However the SNP needs to be more detailed in its plans. It’s not enough to make grandiose statements about massive targets for carbon reductions if the policy substance isn’t there. Furthermore, fracking must not be allowed to begin in Scotland. All the hard work of the Scottish government to increase the commercial viability of renewables would be undermined by state-endorsed fracking. Overall this move should be welcomed, but welcomed with caution.